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The Miami Beach curfew seeks to put a stop to Spring Break revelry.

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The Miami Beach curfew seeks to put a stop to Spring Break revelry.
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The Miami Beach curfew seeks to put a stop to Spring Break revelry.

The Miami Beach curfew seeks to put a stop to Spring Break revelry.

 

After battles, gunshots, property damage, and dangerous stampedes erupted among large crowds in Miami Beach, a party-ending curfew was enforced, which could last until the end of spring break.

Miami Beach commissioners voted unanimously on Sunday to give the city manager the authority to extend the curfew in the South Beach entertainment district until at least April 12, essentially shutting down a popular spring break destination in one of the few states that remained open during the pandemic.

The raucous crowds were attempted to be contained by SWAT teams and law enforcement officers from at least four other departments, but clashes continued for days until Miami Beach officials enforced the curfew, which requires Ocean Drive restaurants to remove all outdoor seating.

Many people from other states were coming in “to partake in lawlessness and a “everything goes” group mentality,” according to City Manager Raul Aguila. He claimed that most people were merely congregating by the thousands in the street, rather than patronizing businesses that desperately needed tourism dollars.

More than 1,000 people have been arrested this spring break season, according to Miami Beach Police, with about 80 weapons confiscated. On Monday, an unexpectedly large crowd blocked Ocean Drive and “basically held an impromptu street party,” according to Police Chief Richard Clements. By Thursday, battles had erupted, resulting in deadly stampedes of people running for their lives.

By Friday night, he said, the drinking had gotten out of hand — one restaurant had been “turned upside down” in a brawl, its “chairs were used as weapons,” and broken glass littered the floor. Both food and beverage activities at the legendary Clevelander South Beach bar next door had to be halted. According to police, gunshots were fired, and a young woman was taken to the hospital with a severely cut leg.

“How much longer are we going to let this go on before we intervene?” During the meeting on Sunday, Clements said. He defended the city’s curfew, which blocks three causeways leading to South Beach from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Thursday through Sunday in an attempt to keep all but residents and workers off the island. The chief said, “I believe this was the right decision.”

On Saturday night, the crowd was defiant but largely nonviolent, refusing to follow the curfew that had only been imposed four hours ago, when police in bulletproof vests used pepper spray balls to break up the party. A huge crowd defied the curfew once more on Sunday night.

The incident sparked racial tensions. On social media, some white people referred to the mostly Black visitors as “animals” or “thugs.”

DeAnne Connolly Graham, a member of Miami Beach’s Black Affairs Advisory Committee, told the Miami Herald, “We have to understand that we are certainly facing an undertone of racism.”

However, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber denied that anyone has been singled out because of their color.

During the commission meeting on Sunday, he said, “When hundreds of people are running through the streets panicked, you know that’s not something that a police department can manage.”

Few people in the crowds wore masks, as mandated by a Miami Beach ordinance enacted in the hopes of containing the spread of the coronavirus, which has claimed the lives of more than 33,000 people in Florida so far.

Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, has insisted on no statewide mask laws, capacity limitations, or other public health constraints, which he credits with holding the tourism industry afloat. Last month, DeSantis said, “If you look at South Florida right now, this place is booming.” “The economy in Los Angeles isn’t booming. The economy in New York City isn’t booming.”

Miami’s tourism arm just spent $5 million on the largest national advertisement campaign in 20 years, hoping to recover after the pandemic cost the city billions of dollars, canceled spring break last year, and forced beach closures throughout the Sunshine State.

Meanwhile, Miami Beach barred alcohol from the beach and all alcohol sales after 10 p.m., as well as sending text messages to visitors urging them to “Vacation Responsibly or Be Arrested.”

South Beach, according to several commissioners, needs a new marketing strategy to rebrand its party-city image. They cited a few arrests in Fort Lauderdale, which has increased hotel prices and advertised a “family friendly” spring break.

Nothing sits well with those who hoped to eventually let loose in the pandemic.

Heather Price, a tourist, told NBC 6: “I just feel like it’s just not fair.” “People spent a lot of money to fly all the way out here only to be unable to engage in the events they desired.”

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